What I Dig With And Why

What I Dig With And Why

My mom was over recently and tripped over my Predator shovel on the back deck.  After a loud clang accompanied by  a resounding unpleasant exclamation, she inquired angrily, and in not-so-eloquent terms, as to why I had accumulated so many different shovels.  At my own peril, I retorted pretty much as follows.

Like a lot of other detectorists, I own three different distinct types of detecting shovels, plus a couple spades.

I believe in using equipment designed specifically for detecting for a couple of good reasons.  First, they generally look better to property owners than traditional shovels and, if chosen wisely, I believe they are less likely to get you tossed off a property.  Secondly, most are designed with a blade that is offset from the handle and greatly reduces the likelihood of scratching a valuable find during recovery.  Plus, detecting requires a lot of one handed carrying alternating with digging, and detecting diggers generally are designed for such with features like T-handles and foot rests, and are generally shorter, light weight and even heat-treated as appropriate.   There is also subjective things to be said for having your $%it together, putting some skin in the game, and behaving like a pro.   

“I might not find anything today but dammit I look like I am.”

Here are my three weapons of choice.


The Predator Raven is my big shovel of choice.  I LOVE IT.  I paid the extra few bucks for rubber foot pieces on both sides of the blade.   This is my shovel for woods and fields and the hard, bulldozer-compacted soil on construction sites. I feel it is too aggressive and opposing for yards.  You can’t break this thing.  It smashes through thick roots, splits rocks, and would come in handy accompanied by a pair of black shoulder pads and an AR-15 in the event of the apocalypse!



The Lesche Sampson shovel, in my opinion, hands down is the greatest detecting shovel ever made.  Made out of some crazy lightweight aircraft-grade steel, it is ultra-light and will take a beating.  The Sampson comes in several variants, and I prefer the T-handle versus the ball handle, and a serration on one side to cut roots.


The Sampson is a pleasure to carry all day, and it digs great.  I also like that it is not imposing.  I have never got tossed out of a yard using it.  One older lady even called it cute.  I also own the super short mini-Sampson.  Fits in a backpack with the XP Deus.  I am thus rendered invisible on the way to my secret spots.



Mike Sanderson makes me laugh every time he refers to a hand spade as a spatula.   We of course have to hunt with hand spatulae during the annual club hunt.   I carry two at all times, because on the rare occasions we need them, my hunting partner never has one.

About twice a year I knock on a door and someone actually tells me I can detect but not dig.  “Well Hot Dog!!!”  Usually whipping out the old kitchen utensils does the trick after cleverly calling them “special tools”.   

“These aren’t the droids you are looking for, Mr. Property Owner!”

On the subject, and at the risk of sounding obtuse, I must herein profess my belief that Joe Haile is the Chuck Norris of Civil War relic hunting.  Mike and I hunted with him all last summer and, at 70 something, he is more machine than man.  I distinctly remember us hunting a productive yard on what had to be one of the hottest afternoons of the year.  After about three hours, I’m sitting on the ground with an ice pack on my neck about to faint.  Mike was in my truck with the air conditioner wide open, and Joe Haile NEVER STOPPED DETECTING.

The Predator Spatula. "For Digging Only" Yeah Right. Tell that to Crocodile Dundee.

The Predator Spatula. “For Digging Only”. Yeah Right. Tell that to Crocodile Dundee.

Over the years, Joe has dug an obscene number of Confederate Plates, many of which are featured in reference material, and an even more ridiculous number of Federal Plates.  And here’s the kicker: Joe’s dug almost all of them with a “hand spatula”.

I continued bantering in his vein for perhaps another ten more minutes before I realized mom wasn’t even pretending to listen to me.   

Good luck out there and thanks for reading!

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